Drug traffickers transport Peruvian cocaine to Europe: United Nations
By Dialogo September 10, 2014
Increasingly, drug traffickers are transporting cocaine from Perú to Europe rather than the United States, according to Flavio Mirella, the head of the Perú branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
“The European market is more profitable than the American market,” Flavio Mirella told the Global Post. “Demand pushes supply.”
The shift in narco-trafficking destinations was brought to the forefront when security forces seized nearly eight tons of Peruvian cocaine in late August. Through an investigation, authorities learned the narcotics were going to be shipped to Spain and Belgium.
Peruvian police in the coastal village of Huanchaco arrested six Peruvians and two Mexicans, who authorities identified as Rubén Larios Cabadas and Jhoseth Gutiérrez León. Police round the cocaine hidden inside a shipment of coal in a warehouse on Aug. 27. It was the largest cocaine seizure in Perú's history.
Peruvian police suspect Larios Cabadas and Gutiérrez León are operatives with the Sinaloa Cartel, a Mexican transnational criminal organization. Police suspect the two men were in Perú to coordinate shipments of cocaine to that country.
The large seizure showed that drug traffickers in Perú are expanding their methods for transporting drugs, said Ricardo Soberón, the former head of Perú’s National Commission for a Drug-Free Life (DEVIDA).
“The scale of the seizure shows that they felt very safe storing their drugs there [in the warehouse],” Soberón told the Global Post. “This just shows that in Perú the narcos are using every possible means to get their drugs to market, drug mules on commercial flights, down the Amazon river to Brazil, over the Bolivian border, light aircraft from the VRAE [Valley of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers], and now this as well.”
The street value of cocaine in Europe is higher than it is in the United States, giving drug traffickers financial incentive to expand their criminal enterprises.
“What is surprising is that this implies a change in the criminal map,” Soberón said. “For Mexicans to be running drugs from Perú to Europe, without it ever going anywhere near México – wow!”
Perú is the world's leading cocaine-producing country, according to the UNODOC. In 2012, criminal organizations cultivated more than 60,000 hectares of coca crops in Perú, according to the UNODC’s annual report, “Peru: Cocaine Cultivation Monitoring 2012.” Perú is home to 13-coca growing regions, with 60,400 hectares which are used for coca cultivation, according to the report.
In 2013, Peruvian security forces authorities eradicated more than 23,947 hectares which were used for coca cultivation. That was a significant increase from the 14,234 hectares security forces destroyed in 2012.
From January 1 through August 31 2014, Peruvian authorities destroyed 12,721 hectares of coca plants, officials said. Peruvian authorities said their goal is to eradicate 30,000 hectares of the crop in 2014, according to DEVIDA. Coca is the primary ingredient in cocaine, and 93 percent of coca crops in Perú are used to produce the drug, according to DEVIDA.
The availability of coca not only in Perú but in the rest of South America has led Mexican cartels to establish a presence in the region. Security forces have captured suspected Mexican drug traffickers throughout the region.
In Perú, Mexican narco-traffickers are battling local drug-running clans who control the clandestine laboratories in the jungle where the coca is manufactured into cocaine, according to Mirella. About 55 percent of the areas where coca is harvested are in the regions of Cusco and Ayacucho.
“It will be difficult to put a stop to drug trafficking due to the country’s geographic complexities,” said Jorge Montoya Manrique, former chairman of Perú’s Joint Command of the Armed Forces. “The important thing is to have initiated a policy of crop substitution by convincing the coca producers themselves to eradicate their illegal crops in favor of new plantations.”
Mirella, however, complimented Peruvian authorities' effort to crack down on the chemicals used to make cocaine.
In 2013, Peruvian security forces seized 2,200 metric tons of precursor chemicals destined for coca-growing regions, according to Vicente Romero Fernández, head of the Anti-Drug Directorate of the National Police of Perú (DIRANDRO).
“Until 2013, the coca eradicators focused on one coca growing region and they waited until the job was finished before moving on the next,” Romero Fernández said. “Now, we have increased the number of men and women working on the elimination of these illegal crops, preventing farmers from engaging in this activity.”